Curator Statement - Karen Patterson

Florence Hasard appears in Wisconsin…

Patterson is most inspired when she can uncover and amplify works of art by lesser-known artists. Often these discoveries – although focused on the unearthing – can reveal more about why the work was concealed in the first place; constrictive social norms, inherent biases, or limited access to information are just several reasons.

When Iris Häussler traced Florence’s work to Wisconsin, it was impossible to know what was going to be revealed. Through interviews, archival research, and several site visits, Florence’s legacy came into focus. An immigrant to the US trying to process the trauma of WWI,  Florence arrives to Milwaukee without family or support systems, so she turns to only true family she has known: the art world and the creative process. We then follow her to the Layton School of Art and uncover so many other like-minded, pioneering, creative women; Charlotte Partridge, Miriam Frink, and Joanne Poehlmann. And then we learn more about the Milwaukee Handicraft Project – one of the most successful WPA projects in the country – where it is likely that Florence spearheaded many projects from dollmaking to printmaking.

But what is most compelling, are the works that were generated in privacy, behind closed doors. A broken heart, the terror of war, or the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land, all processed and distilled on clothing and textiles. There are few statements are this intimate, this interior. Some pieces reflect on how beauty is essential to the experience of pain, while others act as meditations and seem to be processing trauma in real time through repetition and line.

Our understanding of Florence has just begun, and Tale of Two marks an important step along the way. We have already learned so much about Wisconsin art history, immigration history, the confluence of memory and history, and the responsibility inherent unveiling an artist’s story. One has to wonder what is left to uncover…

Karen Patterson is the Senior Curator with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Starting at JMKAC in 2012, her primary focus is the Arts Center’s premier collection of artist-built environments, which includes; components from vernacular art environments, sections of artist’s studios, and artist’s home collections. She incorporates these works into curatorial projects that explore a variety of contemporary themes. Her recent curatorial projects include The Road Less Traveled: Art environments in a contemporary context; Ebony G. Patterson: Dead Treez; Ray Yoshida’s Museum of Extraordinary Values, and This Must Be The Place: artists and their formative places.  Patterson completed her Bachelor of Arts in Folklore Studies at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, and her Masters of Art Administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where her focus was the home collection of Chicago artist Ray Yoshida.